We've all heard the phrase "self care" what seems like a million times, but how can we actually practice it?
We’ve all heard it a thousand times: you need to practice more self care.
But if you work in a nonprofit, especially as a young professional, this statement becomes even more critical.
For one thing, nonprofit work tends to come home with you… if not physically, definitely mentally. You often come home and think about the people whose lives you impact… CONSTANTLY. Is there more you can be doing to help them? Are there people out there who you haven’t reached yet that you need to? How can you better serve your constituents with the work you do? It can get pretty emotionally draining and have your mind racing as soon as you leave your desk.
And then there’s the not-so-glamorous truth... nonprofits simply don’t have the budgets that large corporations do. Chances are, especially if you’re a young professional, you’re not making a ton of money, you’re probably doing more than your job description entails (sometimes way more!), and you might even be working longer hours than others you know. So even if you don’t bring work home with you, you’re both physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the day.
So yeah, self care is important. But it’s just one more thing to add to your plate so it often gets put on the back burner. Self care does not have to be a chore! Here are five tips that will hopefully make self care easier to practice.
Start small. People hear “self care” and they think it has
to be a week long vacation or something that takes up a ton of your time and it really doesn’t. Those types of things are awesome for your mental health but self care practices can also take 5 minutes or less. There’s a great meditation app called Headspace that allows you to set your guided meditation practice to any amount of time. There are also a few yoga apps (my favorite is an app called Down Dog) that allow you to set a guided yoga practice to just 10 minutes on your phone for a quick in-home flow. Self care can be as simple as having a glass of wine at the end of a long day or maybe even a cookie. By changing your perspective on what self care is and how it doesn’t have to be something big or elaborate, it becomes easier to incorporate into your routine.
- Schedule self care into your day or week and make it routine. Choose something that you can do regularly - whether the frequency is every day or once a week. Do something for YOU at the same time consistently. If you really enjoy biking or taking a spin class, make Sunday mornings at 10 AM the day and time you hop on the bike no matter what. Every Friday at 7 PM you take a bubble bath. Every morning at 6:30 AM you meditate for 5 minutes. Whatever your self care preference might be, schedule it into your calendar like a meeting and make it a priority. Remember, self care doesn’t have to be anything huge.
- Make lists that aren’t to do’s. Pulling your mind out of constantly thinking of all the things you have to do and focusing it on something else… like what you’re grateful for at the end of each day… can be incredibly rewarding. Spend maybe 5 minutes at the end of every day and make a mental or physical list of something that’s NOT a to do list. It can be a list of what you are grateful for or a list of good things that happened that day. It just has to be a list of something that is already a fact or in the past rather than something that is in the future that might cause stress or worry. Even making a list of goals can turn into an internal to do list.
- Have a turn off time. If you are one of those people who tends to take work home with you, set a time where you HAVE to turn off. Maybe it’s when you physically leave your place of work; maybe it’s no working on weekends; maybe it’s no working after 7 PM. Whatever it is, make it a RULE in your life and make it clear to your supervisors and co-workers that you are making this rule. That way, if they email you on a Saturday and you don’t respond, they know and understand why and can make it a rule in their lives to not contact you after your turn off time has started.
- Create a self care “budget.” Every month, set aside a few bucks to “reward” yourself with at the end of the month. It can vary from month to month with what you use it for. Use your self care reward money for some retail therapy at Target or Old Navy. Treat yourself to a manicure or take yourself and a friend out for dinner. Whatever you use it for, make sure every single month that you’re setting aside a set amount of money to be used ONLY on self care. It can be more or less but the point is that it’s used on something that makes you happy.
Incorporating more self care can be extremely beneficial. It will help make you more focused and productive at work and will make you more sane at home. We hope these tips help you to make yourself a priority. What are your favorite ways to practice self care?
Leah Backo a contributor to the YNPN blog. She works as the Marketing and PR Coordinator at Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village. To write for the YNPN self care series, or any portion of our blog, email ErinMZaranec@Gmail.com!